Animal Facts

Raccoon

Introduction

The raccoon is a medium sized mammal found in North America. Raccoons are often seen as being intelligent. They are discussed in many Native American folk stories. These stories often focus on its intelligence and abilities to trick other animals. Although regarded as spiritual animals by some tribes, they were hunted for their furs by many. Sometimes they were even hunted for food. Davy Crocket appearing on television made the raccoon fur hat popular in the mid-1950s. Today raccoons are found all across North America and are often considered a nuisance or pest.

Characteristics

Raccoons like to wash before eating it. This is where its name comes from; a Native American word for “to rub or scratch with its hands.” They are nocturnal creatures and mostly active during the night. They have night vision and can easily see in the dark. There are many varieties of the raccoon in North America today. Raccoons are not very fast runners. However, they are good swimmers and spend hours at a time in the water. They are one of only a few of their size mammal that climb head- first down a tree or similar post. Their best trait is their sense of touch which is aided by their padded paws.

Appearance

Raccoons are a grayish brown with a black bandit mask across their eyes. Their tails are long and bushy with stripes. They are often much larger and rounded in the middle while more narrow on either end, giving them a ball-like shape. Their paws are padded with long claws.

LIfe Stages

Since they are mammals, raccoons are born alive in a den the mother has made. Although, they are some only cubs, many will have up to six brothers or sisters. These kits, or cubs, are born both blind and deaf. It will take up to three weeks for them to be able to hear and open their eyes for the first time. Either way it will spend the first couple of months in the den before venturing out with mom. A raccoon is considered an adult at the age of one year.

Life Span

Five years is the usual life span of a raccoon in the wild. However, in captivity they have lived into their twenties. As much as half of all kits born may not live to be one-year-old. Raccoons can carry rabies, which is a very dangerous disease. Distemper, another disease is the largest cause of death among raccoons.

Size

An average raccoon is between a foot and a half to two feet in length and weighs between ten and to twenty pounds. Although the tail may add up to an extra foot in length. When on all fours a raccoon averages about one foot tall.

Habitat

Raccoons are not very selective as to their homes. They may take shelter high up in a tree, in a fallen tree, perhaps a large hole in the ground, or even in a vacant building. Previously mostly found is forests and marshlands, they are highly adaptable and can be found almost anywhere, in the middle of a city or out in the woods, within most of the continental North America. They can withstand a variety of climates. Raccoons have been introduced to other areas of the world some accidental, some on purpose. Some species remain in Japan, Italy, Germany, and the former Soviet Union.

Diet

Raccoons are scavengers. In other words, they eat a wide variety of items they come across. They prefer to look for food at night, because they are nocturnal. They like food in waters in the wild, such as fish, frogs, and crawfish. Though they also like berries and other fruits as well. You can find them searching nests for eggs or chasing mice. On farms and rural areas, they are often found in barns eating the livestock feed on in coops looking for eggs to steal. This is why farmers consider them to be such a pest. In more populated areas of towns and cities, raccoons can be found looking through trash cans for their dinner. Of course, it doesn’t clean up after itself and will leave a mess of trash scattered about, making it a pest to the homeowner. Since it eats both plants and animals, it considered an omnivore.

Friends and Enemies

Other creatures of the night, coyotes and owls, for example, are the enemies of the raccoon. Alligators and eagles are dangerous for them too. Currently humans are more likely to try and trap them to remove one that is pestering their home than to hunt them. They are friends with each other and sometimes search for food together.

Suitability as Pets

Raccoons are not easy to train and may behave unexpectedly. Therefore, they are not often recommended as household pets. Raccoons are clever and may get into a lot of trouble when roaming through your house. They can open drawers, doors, even purses. It may also be dangerous for their health to be kept in a small area for a long time. They are also nocturnal and would want to play while you sleep not during the day like you. Of course they may carry diseases which are contagious and dangerous to humans as well. This would make them a risk to you and your family’s health. Several states in the U.S. do not allow them to be kept as pets. But, of the ones that do allow it, several require a special, exotic pet license in order to keep them as a pet.

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